Saturday, September 6, 2008

What's For Dinner?

It's that time of year when life gets really busy really fast. The relaxing glow of summer begins to fade, bed times kick back in, you pledge to get to the Container Store to organize your life, and ice cream cones by the beach just can't count as dinner any more.

So, what to cook? It's still warm enough that the simple slow cooked meals of winter don't yet appeal. The grill is out and time is short so put it to good use. I love a do-it-yourself kind of meal that has something for everyone and Grilled Fish Tacos fit the bill. Go to your local market and buy a beautiful piece of fish-as local and fresh as they have. You don't want anything too thin or it will fall apart on the grill. Look for fillets between 1/2 and 1 inch thick. Local black bass and snapper are always good, as is halibut...even shrimp.

Here's my plan for an easy dinner of Grilled Fish Tacos:

At the market, buy your fish, your favorite store-bought salsa (I like tomatillo with fish), a couple avocados, some cabbage (already shredded if you like), 2 jalapenos, a lime, tortillas (I like corn but get what you like), long grain white rice, and good black beans in the can.

For the fish, put it in a dish and squeeze on the juice of half a lime. Sprinkle it with a bit of good quality chili powder (I like chipotle) and some salt. Let the fish sit no longer then 20 minutes then cook it on the grill (you could also saute or bake it if you want). Put the salsa and cabbage in bowls. Mince one of the jalapenos and put it in a bowl as well. Peel the avocados and, if you want guacamole, put them in a bowl and mash them gently with a potato masher or even your hands. Add a good amount of salt, a pinch of cumin, a squeeze of lime juice, and a spoonful of that salsa you bought. Put it in a bowl too. Gently warm up your tortillas and put it all on the table. People can make their own tacos with what they like.

For sides, warm the beans and, if you like, add a scoop or two of your salsa. These will be nice on the side or on your tacos.

I also love this recipe for Mexican Seasoned Rice. It is not spicy at all, despite the jalapeno, and has a really nutty taste and fluffy texture. In the time it takes you to marinate and cook the fish, the rice will be all finished.

Seasoned Rice

2 tablespoons canola oil
1½ cups long grain white rice, rinsed until the water runs clear
¼ medium white onion, minced
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 whole jalapeno

Warm the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes, until it becomes chalky white and lightly browned in spots. The rice will crackle as it cooks. Add the onion and stir about 1 minute. Add the broth, bay leaf, salt and jalapeno and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the rice cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, until the rice absorbs the rest of the liquid. Take the pot off of the heat and let it rest, covered, for 10 more minutes. Before serving, remove the bay leaf and chiles and fluff the rice with a fork.

(recipe adapted from Cocina de la Familia by Marilyn Tausend)

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